Important Safety Information- Asymptomatic Testing Program

Dear AFCHES Families:

We’ve had a wonderful start to the school year, and it has been incredible to have so many of our students back in school buildings, learning in person! As you know, keeping our school communities safe is a top priority this year. We wanted to share some updates to our school community as it relates to safety mitigation strategies for the school year.  You can always find additional information on our website. 

Asymptomatic Testing Program 
In keeping with the CDC guidance, all Achievement First schools will begin an asymptomatic testing program the week of September 13th.  All unvaccinated staff members will be required to be tested weekly. Additionally, we encourage all students and vaccinated staff members to sign up for the testing program as well. Testing will allow our school to identify outbreaks early and take the proper precautions to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in our schools. To learn more about the testing program and sign your scholar up to participate, please complete our Consent Form. Families who opt in will be asked to register with our testing partner, Affinity, in the next two weeks.

Masks outdoors 
Given the CDC guidelines shared in early July, we started the year off mandating that masks are worn at all times indoors, and during arrival and dismissal outdoors. With the spread of the Delta variant, we are adding an additional safety approach. Beginning on September 9th, masks will be worn by students and staff at all times, while both indoors and outdoors on school grounds. Mask breaks will be incorporated into the day – especially during recess periods.

Quarantine Protocols 
As we have previously shared, for the 2021-22 school year we are following local district guidelines for positive cases within our schools. You can review the DOE’s policies on quarantining here.

Stay Home if Sick and/or a Close Contact (remember to use the daily Health Screener!)  As a reminder, please remember to complete the Parent Square Health Screener before leaving for school each day. The screener helps us ensure that everyone coming into our building is symptom-free and has not been exposed to COVID-19. One of our top safety mitigation strategies is encouraging anyone who is feeling sick to stay home.
 
If your child is experiencing symptoms or has been in close contact with a confirmed positive case, please contact us immediately so we can discuss appropriate next steps. We encourage everyone who is feeling ill to get tested for COVID-19 so they can safely return to school.
 
Thank you for all that you are doing to support a healthy and safe return to school this fall.
 
Sincerely,
Dr. Johnson and Ms. Cantave 

End of the Year Communication Regarding Next Year

Dear AFCHES families,

Thank you for trusting us with your child’s education during this unique and unprecedented school year. We cannot wait to welcome your child – and all of our scholars – back for in-person school in the fall, and we’re looking forward to partnering with you in the year to come.

As we approach this vital 2021-22 school year, we are focused on::

  • Safety.  This will always be our #1 priority. This year we learned how to operate in-person learning safely and we are hard at work getting buildings ready for next year. We will be upholding a variety of safety protocols — including maximizing space and distance, increasing ventilation, and ensuring mask-wearing and frequent surface cleaning. We will provide more detailed information about our safety procedures in the weeks to come.
  • Honesty & Transparency. We know you likely have questions. We are committed to answering every single one of them. We will be sharing additional information soon,  and please feel free to reach out to the main office after July 15 (all school staff will be on break until that date) with any questions you have about your scholar’s return to in-person learning.


Thank you for your continued partnership and support. We wish you and your family a wonderful and safe summer break. We look forward to greeting you on the first day of school in August!

Sincerely,
Dr. Johnson and Ms. Cantave

Estimadas familias de AFCHES,

Gracias por confiar en nosotros con la educación de su hijo durante este año escolar único y sin precedentes. Estamos ansiosos por darle la bienvenida a su hijo, y a todos nuestros estudiantes, de regreso a la escuela en persona en el otoño, y estamos ansiosos por asociarnos con usted en el próximo año.

A medida que nos acercamos a este vital año escolar 2021-22, estamos enfocados en:
•Seguridad. Esta será siempre nuestra prioridad número uno. Este año aprendimos cómo operar el aprendizaje en persona de manera segura y estamos trabajando arduamente para preparar los edificios para el próximo año. Mantendremos una variedad de protocolos de seguridad, que incluyen maximizar el espacio y la distancia, aumentar la ventilación y garantizar el uso de mascarillas y una limpieza frecuente de la superficie. Proporcionaremos información más detallada sobre nuestros procedimientos de seguridad en las próximas semanas.
•Honestidad y transparencia. Sabemos que probablemente tenga preguntas. Estamos comprometidos a dar respuesta a todos y cada uno de ellos. Pronto compartiremos información adicional y no dude en comunicarse con la oficina principal después del 15 de julio (todo el personal de la escuela estará de vacaciones hasta esa fecha) con cualquier pregunta que tenga sobre el regreso de su estudiante al aprendizaje en persona.

Gracias por su colaboración y apoyo continuos. Le deseamos a usted y su familia unas maravillosas y seguras vacaciones de verano. ¡Esperamos darle la bienvenida el primer día de clases en agosto!

Sinceramente,
Dr. Johnson and Ms. Cantave

Remaining Remote for the 20-21 School Year

Dear Achievement First New York Families–

We are writing today to provide an update on our reopening plans for our schools in New York. Based on recent COVID case counts and frequent NYCDOE facility closures, we will NOT reopen our schools for in-person learning on April 19; instead, our schools in New York will remain 100% remote through the remainder of the 20-21 School Year.

This is an important decision, and not one that we took lightly. All through the pandemic, we have prioritized the safety of our community and meeting the needs of our students and families. This painful decision, like all others, is grounded in these priorities. 

Aligned to our safety priority, we worked this winter with public health experts to establish clear criteria that we would use to make reopening decisions. We said that we will reopen schools for in-person learning if the weighted average positivity rate of COVID-19 in our communities is less than 5%. As of today, April 5, the weighted average for our communities in Brooklyn is 6.84%.  While cases were declining in February, they have now been rising again for several weeks.  Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen the devastating impacts this virus has had on our communities  – and, sadly, that disparate impact continues.  While we are deeply heartened by the development of a safe and effective vaccine, the new, more contagious variants pose a new risk. 

Another deciding factor for us was that, even if we did open, we believe many of our schools would experience last-minute, prolonged closures due to current NYCDOE quarantine policies.  While multi-layered safety protocols (mask wearing, social distancing, handwashing, regular testing, and others) can be powerful in stopping the spread of the virus within schools, we have seen from schools that are open that the virus still enters school buildings from the outside when community spread is as high as it is now.  Many of our co-located schools have opened for a handful of days only to announce at the last minute that they need to close for 10 days – with families scrambling the night before to arrange child care and teachers scrambling to change up their lesson plans.  And these closures have taken place without additional AF students in the building, which will almost certainly add to the challenge.  The Mayor announced a couple hours ago that the quarantine/closure rules will change, but we do not know what the new rules will be — and the experience of this year suggests that we would still experience frequent, unplanned closures. Ultimately, we feel that this disruptive, on-again-off-again dynamic is not in the best interest of students and families.  As much as we will miss the in-person contact, remaining remote through the end of this school year will allow us to focus on consistent, high-quality remote instruction this year AND prepare for a strong start to next year. 

While we are disappointed that we will not be able to welcome our scholars back for in-person learning this year, we do want to make a few important points:

  1. We DO plan to resume in-person learning in August for the start of the 21-22 school year.  We expect almost all of our students to opt to return in person – and we will be ready to serve them safely based on everything we have learned this year. (As you know, our schools in Connecticut and Rhode Island have been open for some of this year).  
  2. For the remainder of this year, we will continue to serve our students well with our best-in-class and ever-improving remote learning program.  Now that the uncertainty about the rest of this year is removed, our staff will put all of their effort into continuing to make remote learning and community even stronger, especially for the students who are struggling with learning and connecting remotely.  The days that we originally planned for staff professional development and asynchronous learning next week will be converted back to full remote learning days.
  3. Our schools will also continue to support the technology needs of our scholars.  If you have any technology issues, please make sure you contact your school’s main office at crownheightselementary2@achievementfirst.org
  4. Since we are not returning for in-person instruction this year, our scholars will NOT take the New York State Exams. While we fundamentally believe in the importance of state assessments — including as a way for policymakers and political representatives to draw attention to the impact of under-investing in the education of children from historically underserved communities — we also recognize that this year’s state test results will be compromised by all of the difficult circumstances of this year.  
  5. While scholars in Grades 3-8 will not take the state exam, the College Board has not cancelled AP exams / the SAT test, which impacts our scholars’ college prospects. Given this, our high schools will work directly with students and families to ensure our scholars are set up for success on these exams. High schools will also share further information later in the year re: graduation and other end-of-year events. 

Thank you so much for your continued flexibility and partnership as we navigate this crazy year together. Please reach out with ANY questions! 

With love,
Richard Buery (CEO), Stephanie Keenoy (Superintendent), and Dacia Toll